7th Trade Union-DAC Forum: Unions and development cooperation donors emphasise the importance of increased support for social protection

Trade unions have made a strong case for how official development assistance (ODA) can be used to achieve universal social protection.

Discussions took place with development cooperation donors from the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC) at the ITUC’s annual Trade Union – DAC Forum on 3 May.

Social protection is one of the key demands of working people for a new social contract and has been at the forefront of government responses to the COVID-19 crisis.

But social protection is facing huge financing gaps that will require the mobilisation of domestic resources coupled with support from development cooperation funds, which are still too low at only 2.7% of all aid funds in 2020.

During a high-level panel debate, ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow highlighted the cost effectiveness of social protection: “If you invest in social protection, you will have more than double the amount of the investment back in the mid-term and huge social returns.

“Although ODA alone cannot do everything, it should be a confidence boost for developing countries to commit to more social protection funding and ensure statutory-based, comprehensive social protection around the world. We want seven per cent of ODA to go to social protection by 2030 and an increase to 14 per cent after that.”

During the forum, trade unions showed how they are engaged in the design and implementation of social protection systems in their countries and demanded a scaling up of financing for social protection from all sources.

OECD DAC members showed their support for social protection and the role that trade unions can play in these processes, and they underscored the connections between social protection and the climate agenda through a just transition.

In closing, Marc Leemans, acting president of the Trade Union Advisory Committee (TUAC) to the OECD, emphasised the potential for collaboration between trade unions and the DAC on social protection and other areas: “Social protection is one of the four pillars of the ILO Decent Work Agenda that are interrelated and should be crosscutting to all development cooperation initiatives.”